Fiddling, Picking and Grinning Season: December 2017 through March 2018

Many of our friends are picking or fiddling buddies are “Snowbirds.” Their return to Arizona signals picking and fiddling season. In December Dave and I stopped by to visit Laura Barry in Tucson. She invited some fiddle friends over to jam.

Sue Elsclager and Laura are sharing fiddling information in Laura’s living room. Sue’s husband Bill and Laura’s friend Tom Rude are around the corner trying to stay safely away from flying fiddle bows. The sign in the entry welcomes Laura’s new grand baby Ivy.

Darwin Lang and Dave share some tunes. The Christmas season is a great time for sharing music and a meal. Dave and I are lucky to have these wonderful friends who share their homes and food and homemade jam with us.

In the center of a fiddle jam at Laura’s house is the fiddle and bow rest plus coffee table. This is a useful piece of furniture as you can see!

Sonoita Serenade. Dave was invited to play in a group organized by Susie Pangle for a Christmas party that her cousin Richard and his wife Mary host at their rural home near Sonoita Arizona. We were staying overnight so pulled Luci, our trailer, and parked in a field adjacent to their ranch house.

This is high desert country in the hills of southern Arizona. Mesquite and cholla cactus grow on the hills and in the washes. I went for a ramble and spotted a strange sight for me. See the next photo.

This is either raccoon or coati scat up in this tree. It consists mostly of mesquite seeds. I didn’t see any animals around but had an interesting walk while the band was practicing up at the house.

The band from the left: Bernie Seely on guitar and vocals; Susie Pangle added her dobro and voice; Jimmie Dixon sang and played guitar; Dave on fiddle and banjo; Larry Rose is behind Dave playing the bass and Denny Carlson played guitar and sang.

The event was held in a barn-like building. The band played country standards for the listening and dancing pleasure of friends of Dick and Mary. Dick did some great barbecue and folks showed up with pot luck dishes. Good food and tunes, a nice evening.

The weather turned chilly with frost by morning the next day. We were glad for our heater and a warm comforter and to be going back to the valley and home.

Picking in Chandler. The next event was a bluegrass picking jam at the Chandler home of Bill and Susan Burns. Millie and Gary Vannoy organized the party that started in the picking porch and spilled onto the pool deck. There was food and fun and conversation for all.

Pickers included the members from the Traditional Bluegrass band and others plus lots of “grinners” who came to listen and visit.

First Christian Church Of Sun City has a Social evening monthly. The Whistling Porch Band asked Dave to play with them to entertain at the church supper. The band members are Ken Killebrew on bass, Ray Scalf on electric lead, Steve Christiansen doing vocals and Dave on fiddle. We recognized many of the folks who attended as regulars at other music events in this part of the valley.

Great barbecue with all the sides and pie made it an all around fine evening.

The Yuma Fiddle Contest held in January is sponsored by the Yuma Jaycees and is a precursor to their big rodeo. It is the first fiddle contest of the year for us. We circle the RVs in the parking lot. The fiddlers work on their contest tunes and take turns playing guitar for one another.

The kids play fiddles and play games. I got to hold Ivy Elizabeth Barry, newest member of the fiddling Barry family. Her sister, Ellie in the red shirt is playing with one of the fiddling Dietrich girls.

Jess Barry plays his contest round with his boys, Clay and Ben, backing him up. Grandma Laura Barry was so proud of all of them.

Dave played his round of three tunes accompanied by Laura Barry and Terry Schwindt.

Dave and Jess played beautifully on Kentucky Waltz accompanied by Frank Moore. Sorry the video isn’t vertical.

Laura and Sue played in the twin fiddle competition, too.

Dave accompanies Laura and she returns the favor.

Dave and Frank accompany Jess B and Madison Dietrich. They played some hot tunes!

When all was said and done, awards handed out (Dave got a trophy for first in his division) and grandkids on the way home, we went to dinner with Laura B and Tom Rude. Chretin’s restaurant has great food and margaritas. It is our favorite Mexican restaurant in Yuma.

Dome Valley north of Yuma was our next stop. It is home to Larry and Pat Rose. They encourage their musician friends to pull in and stay for a spell. We were glad to do so since we were on our way to Blythe bluegrass festival the next weekend.

Our little rig looks pretty small next to Larry’s hanger. He keeps all sorts of vintage cars and cycles restored and in top running condition in his big buildings.

Scenery around the Rose property includes a couple of runways and a date farm. Larry took Dave and I to see a nearby dairy operation since he knew I milked cows as a child. The milking process remains the same but the method is remarkably different.

Larry has antique farming implements for landscaping interest. While I was rambling with my camera, Dave was in the picking parlor with Susie Pangle, Denny Carlson, Jimmie Dixon and Larry Rose. More tunes and food were shared for an enjoyable few days.

The 31st Annual Blythe Bluegrass Festival was held mid-January. Featured bands were Kody Norris Show, Old Blue Band, Mark Phillips and IIIrd Generation and Sister Sadie. Several other bands played as well but these were the headliners. Of course the fun for musicians is the campground picking and there was lots of that.

Gary Vannoy, Dick Brown (Old Blue Band) and Doug Piper warmed up and picking. Millie Vannoy was playing bass, Dave was there too.

Dave and John Kennedy playing some tunes. Notice John’s left foot is keeping time so rapidly that it isn’t in focus!

Some of our favorite folks are in this picture. Fiddle player Russ Leininger has Rascal on his lap while his wife Nancy talks to Millie Vannoy. The picking tents aren’t wind proof but sure make a difference keeping pickers happy. Propane heaters are nice too. Gary Vannoy always puts up a tent. Millie makes food for everyone and someone usually brings out a quart jar of something potent to pass around.

Sister Sadie was my favorite group. These five mega-talented women put on one heck of a show. Dale Ann Bradley and Tina Adair did some powerful singing and had fun doing it. Deanie Richardson on the fiddle was fantastic. Make an effort to see this band if they are in your area.

Ajo Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Contest. The fiddle contest started February 1st but we always go early the week before and camp in the desert with our friends. Susie and Harold Pangle were there first so secured a spot for us with enough room for several others.

It is always so beautiful here. It takes my breath away just thinking about it. While here, we got up in the middle of the night to see the lunar eclipse, blood moon, super moon, blue moon. What an event to share with friends on a chilly desert night. Dave was inspired to write a tune he calls “Blood Moon.”

Arleen Watson was there bringing nifty tunes on her accordion. It must have been a bit chilly since everyone is wearing jackets.

Arleen, Laura, Dave and I climbed the geologic feature west of our camp that some people call the cow pies. You can tell by our expressions that we were having a good time. Not here this year and deeply missed were Arn and Diane Berg. Diane had health issues that kept them in Montana near medical care. We are hoping they can be with us in full health next year.

Dave and Laura used the time to practice their fiddle contest tunes. Waltzes, hoedowns and tunes of choice were chosen to be played at the contest at the Ajo Country Club. As the weekend nears, we break camp and make our way to town to dump and take on fresh water at “BellyAcres” RV Park. The chatty owner is always friendly and helpful. Out to the country club we go parking on the driving range which is conveniently closed for the weekend. The golf course is open as is the cafe and bar and many of the campers enjoy all three amenities. The fiddlers put on a show at the Senior Center on Thursday and at the downtown Plaza on Friday. The contest is held on Saturday and Sunday.

The downtown Plaza entertainment was well attended. While this was going on, I took the opportunity to visit the quilt show that was happening at the old high school which is now an artist colony.

Neat quilts. My favorite was the crazy quilt and all the embellishments on it.

I took a side trip into the Catholic Church across from the Plaza. I would have taken pictures of the Episcopal Church but it was locked.

Evening entertainment is provided for listening and dancing on Friday and Saturday nights. Ross Riggs is singing in his inimitable style. His wife Fran is playing bass. Also pictured are Jimmie Dixon, Dave and Susie Pangle.

It was a very Barry contest. Corrine Barry Geary competed (first picture above). Jess Barry (second photo) won his division. Ellie Barry, Jess’s daughter (third photo) was a crowd favorite. Laura Barry (dare I say matriarch of the clan) also a crowd favorite. And in the final photo is Amy Barry who recently took up a fiddle since everyone else in the family was playing (except baby Ivy).

Katie Bonn accompanied by husband Tom and Dave B. We were so glad they finally arrived from winter-y Idaho. Katie and Dave competed in the twin division and sounded great.

Katie and Tom Bonn, Elaine and Denny Carlson and Charly Pangle (on Elaine’s lap) have a morning visit while Charly gets a good petting.

Tucson Fiddle Contest is a one day affair held at a local high school. It was the last contest we attended for the season. Lots of good fiddlers were present.

Dave and Katie were in the twin division and were backed up by Laura Barry and Corrine Geary. Laura hosted a jam at her house after the contest. Sandwiches and Slushies from EG’s, a long time favorite of Tucson folk.

Glendale Folk Fest is a free annual event. There are many stages and workshops during the two day affair with talented musicians donating their time to play a 30 minute set. Side of Grits is a band Dave plays in with four other people. They applied for and were granted a slot on the Machine Shed stage on Saturday.

The sunshine was bad for taking a front shot of the band. Left to right are; Mike Seymour on mandolin, Dennis Talbert on banjo and vocals, Rick Rhodes on guitar and vocals, Leslie Rhodes on bass and harmony vocal and Dave on fiddle. Their set was well received by a full house.

There are always plenty of jammers forming groups around the extensive grounds of the Sahuaro Ranch. Food vendors did a good business on both days. Our friends from Laramie Wyoming, Tom and Alice Wilhelm stayed overnight with us and were able to attend the event on Sunday.

Tom Wilhelm on electric bass (he has a small battery powered amplifier) and Dave who is seated playing fiddle

Charlie Ray Robinson was present playing and singing. After rehabbing from a liver transplant, he is feeling well enough to get out and pick again. We were glad to see him.

This jam got too big to be enjoyable but it was fun for a while. Tom’s bass fell out of our car and onto Dave’s big toe. It was hurting pretty bad so he ended up in the urgent care where an X-ray proved it to be broken but not displaced. He saw an orthopedist who declared that it would heal just fine. The bruise was ugly and the nail will come off but he’s getting around without pain and we are happy for that.

You can see his big toe, still bruised looking but it didn’t keep us home as the next weekend was the Lake Havasu Bluegrass Festival.

The 16th Annual Bluegrass on the Beach music festival is held at Lake Havasu City at the state park on the beach on the lake. Our good friend Gary Vannoy saved us a camping spot near the stage and their picking tent so Dave wouldn’t have to hobble far afield. Headliners were The Gibson Brothers, Edgar Loudermilk Band, Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa, Sawmill Road, The Special Consensus, Jerry Butler Band, Monroe Crossing, Volume Five and The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. It was a great lineup and a great crowd was on hand. My favorites were the solid brother sound and humor of the Gibson’s and the bouncy drive and fun of Monroe Crossing.

The only band picture I got was of Monroe Crossing. The wind was as active as they were on this day.

The Lake was blue and beautiful and the coots were lined up taking a break on the beach.

Lots of good picking and singing happened in the jam tent just steps from our trailer. Here Ray Foster is rendering a tune.

Dave fiddles a break and Millie keeps time. This is the last big bluegrass festival of the season but not the last event we will go to.

Apache Junction festival. Side of Grits were invited to perform st this new festival which was held at a park in Apache Junction on the east side of the Phoenix valley. We went over for the day on Saturday for the band performance but didn’t return for the second day. Getting from the west side of the valley to the east side is a hassle. The festival was well attended by the local folk. Side of Grits was well appreciated by the large crowd.

Leslie Rhodes, Dave, Rick Rhodes, Dennis Talbert and Mike Seymour. Picking and singing on a warm day.

Dave and Rick harmonizing.

Fiddle Jamboree at Salome Arizona The jamboree is a two day event with camping across the street from the Lions Club building where entertainment is presented onFriday and Saturday evening. The Lions have breakfast and lunch on Friday and an evening meal on Saturday. Jamming happens at campsites or in the building where there is a small stage. This is often the last time we see our friends from the northern states until fall festivals start. It is a happy and sad time as we are never sure that everyone will be able to return. Denny and Elaine Carlson will head to Minnesota, Tom and Katie Bonn head back to Idaho and Susie and Harold Pangle who live nearby us in Surprise will get out of town to Montana where family is as the valley heats up. We will head north as well near the end of May. But that is another blog.

Here Denny and Jimmy try a tune Dave has written as Elaine holds up the chord sheet.

Evening entertainment is provided by anyone who wants to sign up to play three tunes. Here Laura fiddles backed up by Dave and Blaine Cone. Blaine is a treasure of tunes and anecdotes and we sure appreciate John Kennedy bringing him down from the Mayer Arizona area.

Denny was on stage a lot but found some time to have a dance with Elaine. Goodbye friends and safe travels wherever you roam.


2 thoughts on “Fiddling, Picking and Grinning Season: December 2017 through March 2018

  1. Ahhhh…..January and February. If you are an Arizona fiddler or bluegrass musician, these are our favorite months. Look forward to it all year. You captured it perfectly. Thanks. Only 10 more months until January!


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